MA: The Contradictions of Verizon's Position

Posted on June 4, 2007 - 12:30pm.

From: The Patriot Ledger

Verizon to urge faster franchise process: Hearing tomorrow; spokesman says 'system is broken'

The Patriot Ledger

During a question-and-answer session at an industry conference, Verizon's chief financial officer said the telecom giant is generally satisfied with the pace of its expansion of its new TV service.

Chief Financial Officer Doreen Toben responded to a question about Verizon's cable TV franchising efforts by playing up the successes the company has had so far in states that require town-by-town negotiations for cable franchises such as Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

MA: The threat to local access

Posted on June 4, 2007 - 10:20am.

from: Media Nation

The threat to local access

When the euphemisms start piling up, the best thing to do is to take a closer look. The Legislature's Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy will hold a public hearing tomorrow on the Massachusetts Cable Choice and Competition Act. Well, gee, who could be against such a thing? In fact, the bill represents a massive assault on local media by the telecom giant Verizon. It's also part of a nationwide campaign. The Web site is tracking the issue here and elsewhere.

The legislation, described in the Globe last Friday by Laura Colarusso and the subject of a Globe op-ed today by Nolan Bowie, would strip cities and towns of their right to regulate the franchising of cable television operations in their communities. Instead, all regulation would be carried out by the state. Such a change could result in less local programming — the government meetings, school plays, church services and community bulletin boards that don't exactly compete with "American Idol," but that form a vital part of the local media scene.

Because government-mandated funding formulas are based on the number of subscribers in a given community, larger cities such as Boston, Cambridge and Somerville have vibrant local public-affairs programming as well. Boston even has a daily newscast and a weekly political talk show, as I described in a story for CommonWealth Magazine earlier this year. State regulation wouldn't necessarily result in the immediate demise of such funding mandates — but it would make getting rid of those mandates a whole lot easier.

So what's going on? Traditional cable providers — now mostly bought up by Comcast — played by the old rules, winning approval on a town-by-town basis. Verizon, which seeks to offer cable television over its phone lines, wants to catch up quickly, which is why Verizon officials are complaining about the lengthy delays sometimes imposed by local officials. Comcast, at least for the moment, seeks to keep the current regulatory regime in place — after all, it already has the licenses it needs, so anything that makes life more difficult for Verizon gives it a competitive advantage.

In fact, there will be more competition and more choice for consumers in communities where Comcast and Verizon go at it head to head. The problem is that transferring the regulatory process from local communities to the state could well result in fewer mandates for cable providers to put money into local programming. It could quickly become a race to the bottom, as Comcast would rightly cry foul if Verizon were allowed to get away with making less of a commitment to localism.

The traditional cable providers are fighting just as hard as Verizon. Recently I noticed a commercial during a Red Sox game from a group called Keep It Local MA. It was a warm, gauzy appeal to keep cable television the way it is today. Its Web site looks like it was designed by Norman Rockwell. But if you do a "whois" on, you'll find that it's registered to something called NECTA.

A little Googling quickly reveals that NECTA is the New England Cable and Telecommuniations Association, "a six state regional trade association representing substantially all private cable telecommunications companies in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont" that "has represented the interests of the cable telecommunications industry before state and federal regulatory agencies, in the Courts, the Legislatures, and before the Congress of the United States."

So yes, all the players are looking out for their best interests. It's just that, in this particular case, the traditional cable industry's interests happen to line up with those of consumers.

The time will come when there will be no logical rationale for regulating television delivery — it will all be Internet-based, and the closed cable systems of today will cease to exist. For now, though, if regulators stop requiring cable companies to pay for local programming, then it will disappear.

The legislation, Senate #1975, is online here. The media-reform organization Free Press offers online resources here. The principal sponsor of the bill is state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, whose contact information is online here. The Massachusetts Muncipal Association, which opposes the bill, has a resource guide online here.


MA: Customers' bills to drop? Cable TV law stirs debate in city

Posted on June 4, 2007 - 10:18am.

from: The Eagle Tribune

Customers' bills to drop? Cable TV law stirs debate in city

By Jason Tait , Staff Writer

HAVERHILL - One side says your cable television bills could drop. The other says you could lose your community access television station.

MA: Consumer benefit in cable franchising

Posted on June 4, 2007 - 6:03am.

from: Boston Globe

Consumer benefit in cable franchising

By Nolan Bowie | June 4, 2007

WHATEVER VOICE towns and cities have in their cable television service will be at stake in a bill before the state Legislature tomorrow.

The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy will hold a hearing on a bill favored by Verizon Communications Inc. The so-called Act Promoting Consumer Choice and Competition of Cable Service would allow Verizon and other companies to preempt local control of the cable franchising process. Instead of local municipalities -- with the participation of local citizens and their local community representatives -- negotiating in good faith for better content, high-speed access to broadband, and quality digital services, Verizon proposes an expedited, but self-serving, single statewide franchise license that does nothing to improve choice or benefit consumers.

MA: Locals fight to keep control of licensing cable TV companies

Posted on June 3, 2007 - 6:11pm.

from: Boston Globe

Locals fight to keep control of licensing cable TV companies

By Laura M. Colarusso, Globe Correspondent | June 3, 2007

As the Legislature focuses on a bill that would seize from municipalities the authority to approve cable TV licenses, local opposition to the proposed law is growing.

MA: Senate No. 1975: June 5th Hearing

Posted on June 2, 2007 - 12:30pm.

from: Mass Access

Massachusetts cable franchising bill, Senate No. 1975, proposes elimination of local cable franchising


The Hearing begins at 10:00am and will end promptly at 1:00pm
(they only have the room for 3 hours)


MA: Two Save Access TV Shows Available

Posted on June 2, 2007 - 11:47am.

from: Wilmington Community Television

Two Save Access TV Shows Available

Wilmington Community Television has created two Save Access TV television shows and would like to share them with the rest of Massachusetts (and the country) in response to the hearing at the Massachusetts State House on June 5th concerning the Verizon authored franchising bill. Cambridge Community Television has uploaded the videos to our University Channel FTP account as well as our channel. Find out how to grab the content for your websites and cable channels below.

MA: Locals fight to keep rein on cable TV

Posted on May 31, 2007 - 6:03am.

from: Boston Globe

Locals fight to keep rein on cable TV

By Laura M. Colarusso, Globe Correspondent
May 31, 2007

As the Legislature focuses on a bill that would seize from municipalities the authority to approve cable TV licenses, local opposition to the proposed law is growing. That resistance is expected to be on full display Tuesday when a legislative committee holds a public hearing on the bill, which would allow telecom companies to bypass local governments before entering their cable markets.

MA: Lack of local cable access causes static for Verizon

Posted on May 30, 2007 - 4:48pm.

from: Boston Globe

Lack of local cable access causes static for Verizon

By Megan Woolhouse, Globe Staff
May 27, 2007

Marlborough residents who subscribe to Verizon for cable television service can get hundreds of channels beamed in from around the world, but if they want to watch local cable-access shows, they're out of luck. At least for now.

( categories: MASSACHUSETTS | Verizon )

MA: Local control means better cable service

Posted on May 27, 2007 - 6:07pm.

from: Eagle-Tribune

Counterpoint: Local control means better cable service

Eleanor L. Pye

In early June, Massachusetts Senate bill 1975 will be voted on to determine whether cable franchising will be negotiated at a state level or remain at the local level. The text of the bill begins, "An act promoting consumer choice and competition for cable service." This statement, and the subsequent bill, could not be further from the truth.

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